Monday, May 16, 2016

None Are So Blind...!

As a companion story to "The Circus of Lost Souls!", where writer Len Wein shows a more gentle side to the incredible Hulk by having him interact with a young girl who sees and accepts him in a different light than how others do (just as Roy Thomas did in a story involving a hallucination), "None Are So Blind...!" strikes a similar note, with a connection just as moving and an ending just as poignant. It's a reliable plot device that goes back to the 1931 classic film, Frankenstein (well, with the exception of how that particular scene ends). Here, of course, the Hulk knows enough not to endanger the one who means him no harm--and if we're to believe the issue's cover, heaven help those who do.

Wein handles these "meet and greet" scenes between the Hulk and a trusting innocent quite well, with each situation pleasantly unique (e.g., "Crackajack" Jackson). In this case, the Hulk has escaped the fortress of the Gremlin in Siberia, and slowly makes his way to a clearing near a small Russian village where he comes across Katrina, drawn to her by her gentle singing. Introductions are made, and the two become at ease with one another fairly quickly. Yet the Hulk is saddened to discover that Katrina has an affliction he's at a loss to help her with.

Unlike Wein's other similarly-themed Hulk stories, in this tale the narrative is presented by the Hulk himself, one of the rare occasions where the writer has taken such an approach. (In fact, I can't recall a single other instance where the Hulk has narrated a story--can anyone else?) Here it adds an extra layer of perspective, where usually we're only privy to the Hulk's thoughts by the character doing his thinking "out loud"; as a result, our impressions here of the story's events and the people involved must come from the Hulk, which turns out to be an interesting change of pace.

Kristina's family comes looking for her soon enough--and, encountering the Hulk, react as most do when they jump to conclusions and perceive him as a threat. Fortunately, Katrina is there to cool tempers and stabilize the situation; and we soon learn that her relatives and the rest of the villagers are trigger-happy because of nightly raids from unidentified creatures, for reasons unknown.

Further put at ease because of the efforts of Katrina's grandfather to restore her sight, the Hulk accepts Palkov's hospitality and lodging for the night. And thanks to the narrative being provided by the Hulk, we experience some fascinating insight as to where and how his thoughts drift as he dozes. "Hulk tried to sleep... but pictures came into Hulk's head. Pictures of big explosion... blinding light... of puny human turning into... Hulk? Hulk shook Hulk's head... tried to make pictures go away." It certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what incident the Hulk's fitful thoughts are referring to.

Yet much time doesn't pass before he's roused by a sound closer to home--the "darklings" that Palkov spoke of, who the Hulk spots closing on the dwelling of Katrina's family. This time it's the Hulk who jumps to conclusions, perhaps justifiably--because we recognize these intruders as the Mole Man's army of "subterraneans," who get a more startling and confrontational reception than they were expecting.

"...making funny squirrel-sounds instead of words..." Gosh, I don't think any writer has ever bothered to elaborate on the subterraneans' speech; but given that the description comes as a result of the Hulk's observations and impressions, it makes perfect sense to do so here.

With the "darklings" scattered and on the run, the Hulk gives pursuit--and in another nice touch by Wein, their destination produces more subconscious impressions for the Hulk, once again dating back (in real time) thirteen years.

Once in the caves, the subterraneans are able to swarm over the Hulk without warning--this time, armed with gas that subdues him. When he awakens, the villain of this story makes his appearance--and it becomes clear just what has drawn him to this small Russian village, and why the Hulk will fight to deny it to him.

The Mole Man puts up resistance, of course, including summoning an army of subterraneans--but the Hulk demolishes his way through whatever stands in his way, and, in the end, collapses the tunnel which leads back to the surface. That stops the Mole Man and his legions cold, and the Hulk, as well--but for the Hulk, his battle isn't over until he delivers the precious drug back to those who need it.

With the story drawing to its close, it's during the scene where the drug is finally administered to Katrina in order to restore her sight that Wein's story stumbles, if only slightly. It's clear what sort of ending Wein is going for, and what sort of response he wishes to evoke in the Hulk--but its execution seems to be lacking the sufficient elements necessary to get us there. It nevertheless remains a touching conclusion; Wein is just perhaps in too much of a rush to reach it.

We could assume any number of things to make sense of what's going on here. There's really no reason for Katrina to actually see a different person standing before her; nor does she strike the reader as the delusional type who only sees what conforms to her expectations. Perhaps the man's appearance is the symbolic representation of how the Hulk believes Katrina sees him, even if that's not the case--and that, due to his own perception of himself, he feels he can never live up to that image. Otherwise, the only thing left to assume is that there's some flaw in the drug that distorts Katrina's vision, which would greatly diminish the tone of this story's ending.

Whatever the truth of the matter, there's still a great deal of power in this closing scene, since the Hulk choosing to leave without a word is also bound to hurt his friend--yet he still resolves to do so, believing that to stay would cause her greater disappointment in the end. It's here where third-party narrative would probably serve to fill in the gaps of this ending; but forced to rely on the Hulk's thoughts to guide us through, perhaps the confusion and lack of clarity we might be feeling is meant to mirror the Hulk's own, making this story's conclusion resonate on levels that provide their own kind of closure.

Incredible Hulk #189

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Herb Trimpe
Inks: Joe Staton
Letterer: Artie Simek


pnk said...

Thank you for taking the time to share this -- this particular story was one of my very favorite comic books as a kid, and you've got nearly all the images I wanted to see in here, beautifully scanned.

Comicsfan said...

My pleasure, pnk, thank you.

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